Coronavirus (COVID-19): Symptoms, Prevention, and How to Discuss With Young People

In this article, we want to share three important topics concerning the Coronavirus (COVID-19): symptoms, prevention, and how to discuss the illness with children and adolescents.

In this article, we want to share three important topics concerning the Coronavirus (COVID-19): common symptoms, preventative measures, and how to discuss the illness with teens. 

Know the Symptoms

According to the CDC, the common symptoms of Coronavirus COVID-19 are:

• Fever
• Cough
• Trouble taking deep breaths

Remember that there are many different germs that cause many similar symptoms or sicknesses, but that doesn’t mean you have Coronavirus. In addition, other common symptoms, like headaches or stomachaches, for example, do not particularly indicate COVID-19. If you are feeling unsure about whether or not symptoms match Coronavirus, call your doctor for guidance.  

Preventative Measures

The CDC recommends the following preventative measures to avoid the spread of COVID-19 (or any disease): 

Stay home if you are sick. Note that health organizations have indicated that face masks do not do much to prevent someone who is not sick from picking up germs. Face masks are more effective for those who are already sick, in order to prevent the spread of that sickness to others.

Disinfect frequently touched surfaces. (Door handles, tables, light switches, etc.)

Cough or sneeze into your elbow or tissue rather than your hands. Throw tissues away immediately and wash your hands (see below).

Avoid touching your face. Especially your mouth, nose, and eyes. This keeps germs from getting into your body. 

• Wash hands frequently, especially before meals, following the correct method for handwashing: 

  1. Get your hands wet.
  2. Apply soap. 
  3. Rub and scrub your hands all over for 20 seconds, creating lots of lather.
  4. Rinse. It is actually the soap itself that dissolves the fat membrane on a virus, causing it to fall apart and “die”. Any kind of soap will accomplish this—you do not need special hand-sanitizer or anti-bacterial soap (which doesn’t affect viruses in any case and is generally controversial in the scientific community). Hand-sanitizer can be used as a back-up option, but plain old soap and water are the most effective if you follow the CDC-recommended method above. (This means you don’t need to worry too much about those hand-sanitizer shortages!)

Communication Guidance

When speaking with young people about the Coronavirus there are some key goals to keep in mind. From slowing down to model healthy preventative measures to clearly communicating any school closures that become necessary, our team is here to support you: 

  1. Be straightforward and factual. Children and adolescents deserve clear, accurate information that is pitched to their level. We want to reassure them, but we also don’t want to hide anything. If we are scared to talk about a topic, teens will read that from us, and it can lead to greater fear and uncertainty.

  2. Be calm and reassuring. Avoid talking in a spirit of anxiety. Wait until you yourself are in a frame of mind where you are feeling calm and in control before initiating a conversation. Focus on facts that are reassuring, such as the fact that COVID-19 is a comparatively rare virus (in the hundreds of thousands of cases worldwide, as compared with, for example, the flu, with an estimated 1 billion cases per year worldwide). Be mindful of the fact that most people who have gotten COVID-19 have not gotten very sick.

  3. Answer questions honestly. “Follow your teen” by listening carefully to his or her questions, answering them seriously to the best of your knowledge, and, if you don’t know the answer, simply saying that you aren’t sure.

  4. Teach preventative measures. The most important thing teens need to know is how to avoid getting sick. Model for them things like coughing into your elbow and encourage them to wash their hands in a way that successfully destroys viruses and other germs (see above.)

This is an ongoing issue and one that our team is closely monitoring. We will be sure to update this post and share more resources as the CDC learns more.

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